Fight the technology malaise

Opening Statement

John McNally

Managing editor

February 2020

Any chance I get to use — and I believe, credibly here — a quote from “The Simpsons” in my monthly column, I’m going to take it. So here it goes.

“I used to be with ‘it.’ But then they changed what ‘it’ was. Now what I’m with isn’t ‘it’ and what’s ‘it’ seems weird and scary to me. It’ll happen to you.”

The context of this quote is Abraham Simpson, in a flashback to when he was a father and not the Grandpa Simpson we typically see, telling teenage Homer Simpson that he’s not always going to be hip and cool (to the minimal degree Homer Simpson was ever hip and cool).

It’s a hilarious line that first aired in May 19, 1996, in the episode “Homerpalooza.” I was 14 when I first heard that line and it’s stuck with me forever. I look forward to using this line on my son in 2034 when he’s 14.

Beyond the line being hilarious, it’s steeped in truth. The world around us changes, sometimes so quickly we don’t realize it. The quote, at least to me, tells us not to get frozen in time with the comforts we appreciate.

No longer being “with it” hit me like a ton of bricks a couple of years ago when I saw my mom lurking on Reddit boards via her top-of-the-line iPhone. I had heard of Reddit, but never had checked it out until my mom showed me what it was.

This is the same person that I had to show — repeatedly — how to turn on our Acer desktop computer back around when that May 1996 “Simpsons” episode aired. Who did she turn to when she wanted to read the Kenneth Starr Report when it was posted online back in September 1998? Me. I got her online to read it and immediately went to hang out with some friends — probably to play the latest PlayStation game.

Somewhere along the line I got soft when it comes to technology. I stopped deeply caring about video games after college. I only care what type of deal I can get on a smartphone. You’ll never see me waiting in line for a release of the latest tech product.

That shouldn’t, and will not, be the case going forward. Just as the legal field is changing and adapting to new technology, so will Chicago Lawyer. Our features in this month’s issue have shown me just how much we need to be planning our evolution.

Make sure to check out Tequia Burt’s in-depth feature starting on Page 14 about how law firms, especially the smaller, nimbler outfits, are utilizing the latest available technology to provide the best service for their clients.

I was impressed to learn about firms using AI and Big Data to decipher how to plan cases, present information to juries and more.

Additionally, I wrote about copyright trolls starting on Page 18 and how the latest in social media trends can prove costly to your clients. Make sure you have a sit-down discussion about how to be legally covered before they create that latest viral posting.

These stories are a stark reminder to fight the sands of time and stay “with it.” I vow to no longer let my nearly 70-year-old mother understand more than me about the latest tech or internet trend.

In the overall scheme, this happening to me is just a funny story for a column. But if your firm is getting lapped in the technology arena by your rivals, take heed.

I fear what could happen if you’re not “with it.”